October 21, 2004, 12:00 AM

How a bike shop’s e-mail campaign won Tour de France jersey sales

When a new U.S. team jersey for the Tour de France became available late in the race, Bicycle Garage Indy e-mailed an offer to 10,000 customers and reaped more online sales in one week than it had done online in the first half of the year, it says.

Bicycle Garage Indy, a 2-store bike retailer based in Indianapolis, does only a tiny percentage of its $6 million in annual sales on its web site, BGIndy.com. But when it learned that a new Tour de France jersey for the U.S. team suddenly became available late in the race, it e-mailed 10,000 customers and recorded $10,000 in online sales in one week, more than it had recorded in online sales in the first half of this year, president Randy Clark tells InternetRetailer.com.

BGIndy.com, although a functioning e-commerce site with site search and extensive navigation options, serves mostly as an informational site that builds relationships with customers, Clark says. In addition, many of its equipment suppliers insist on having customers pick up bikes and other items in stores to assure that they are properly assembled.

But when the new Nike jerseys worn by Lance Armstrong and other U.S. racers became available late in the race, Clark saw an opportunity to quickly get a jump on other retailers by e-mailing the 10,000 customers who had opted into his e-mail campaigns. The jerseys were re-designed late in the race because the traditional sponsor, the U.S. Postal Service, was passing on the sponsorship to the Discovery Channel, so a new jersey was produced to show both companies.

But the change wasn’t broadcast to retailers of licensed sportswear that mimic the outfits worn by professional racers. Clark, while watching the race, noticed the U.S. team wearing a new jersey and immediately called Nike. “I knew they would be hard to get,” he says, adding that his stores had sold out of other Tour de France merchandise earlier in the year.

After securing an order from Nike, Clark designed an e-mail marketing message on a template in his hosted ExactTarget e-mail application. Within about three days of when he noticed the new jerseys, he had e-mailed a special offer for the jerseys to his opt-in e-mail subscribers.

About 32%, or 3,200 recipients opened the e-mail, and 7%, or 700, clicked through to BGIndy.com for more information. Of those 700, more than 10%, or 80, made an average purchase of about $125, Clark says.

His retail shops encourage customers to use BGIndy.com for information on biking, such as bike routes and exercise routines, as well as to keep up with new products. Store clerks ask for customers’ e-mail addresses at the point of purchase. The retailer then follows up with an e-mail message that informs customers of complementary products, offers coupons, and asks if they’d like to opt-in for further e-mail marketing messages.

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